Summer camp


Sunny days are just around the corner. Freedom and fun await. With trips to plan and bags to pack, what are you going to do with your kids this summer? What will your summer hold?

There are so many good options in and around Knoxville now. There’s Tate’s, Webb camp, Ijams, and School of Rock to name a few. VBS, swim team, dance camps, cheer, baseball, soccer, football, and any sport….. You name it and I bet you can find it. Whether it be the arts or sports, there are so many fun options.

When I was growing up, my summer days did not include camps. I never went to sleep-away camp. And, my family didn’t have the extra cash to pay for entertainment camps. Most days were spent hanging at the pool with my best friends. That’s it. That simple. Slumber parties, a trip to the beach, a boat ride on the lake, and playing. I was not deprived but it would seem so when I look at the norm today.

In this culture, we are conditioned to be led by schedules, structure, and deadlines. (I’m not immune!) The busier, the better! (or is it?) With all the craziness that the school year brings, especially the insane month of May, we welcome slow starts and easy ends to the day. And, I just don’t believe there’s some big benefit to filling the short summer months with schedules. Yet, I know this is not the norm.


What I’m thinking is truly beneficial for our children and families is actually spending time together. Instead to signing up for a different camp every week and cramming the days, what about creating some creative time and  quieter outings for your family? Maybe we should even just take it easy and see what happens. Not having a schedule is not so bad. I know not every family has this option because many working parents don’t have a choice. But, many who do don’t take this route.

It’s not that parents don’t want to spend time with their kids, right?! One reason is because it’s just become the norm. What camps are you signing up for? It’s just what we do. And, then there are parents who don’t know what to do with their children or feel more comfortable having someone else plan every day of the week. Some parents just want to wear the kids out! Some kids really do want to play with their friends at camp and ask to go. And, many want to make sure to keep up with the Jones’.

Now, it could be worse. Kids are getting socially stimulated, while also staying active. And, I’d bet they’re having a little fun too! Camps sound fun to me too! Children who have the privilege of attending a camp are better off than having an electronic device babysit them all summer and sitting inside. There are certainly more wasteful ways to spend the summer!

But if we take a moment to reflect, we’d realize that kids grow up too fast. We want and need to spend time with them because they’ll be gone before we know it. And, we want to continue to steal time imprinting our values on them. With the influence of social media and the abundance of external factors that influence our children, it’s now more than ever that we need time with our children, not time away.

It will be nice to spend the mornings at a slower pace and see what the day brings. Maybe we don’t every week but don’t be afraid to slow it down a bit and explore together. What if our summer camp includes:

  • Reading in pj’s
  • Cooking 3 real meals a day
  • Doing a book study together
  • Exploring a new hiking trail
  • Playing in a creek
  • Going on a long bike ride downtown
  • Hearing some free WDVX music
  • Visiting a new park
  • Mountain biking at Baker’s Preserve
  • Wandering around at Ijams
  • Making a day at the Zoo, the KMA, the Muse, or the Oak Ridge Children’s museum
  • Volunteering
  • Lounging at the pool
  • Hanging in the hammock
  • Planning a lemonade stand for a charity
  • Planting a garden
  • Climbing a tree
  • Getting to know our neighbors better
  • Getting to know each other better

There’s no shortage of family-friendly activities in and around Knoxville, or even in our own backyards! There’s the saying, the family that prays together stays together. But, I also believe:

A family that plays together, stays together.


Bring on summer!


Chocolate cake and kitchen messes

It’s definitely my number one pet peeve for 21st century kids and parents. I just cannot stand watching families eat their Sunday lunch at restaurants while every family member is on their phone. And, I find it ultra-annoying that parents allow children to have their device anytime they have to wait, at the doctor, at the restaurant, or even during a church service.

But, I do get it. It’s just so easy. And, I too get preoccupied with keeping busy around the house while Brody wastes hours on early weekend mornings. To feel less guilty, I remind myself that he hasn’t played video games all week. And, it does allow for some quiet time and sibling separation. Slowly, as the school year gets more and more tiring, I get lazier and less aware of the 30 minute rule that I know is best.

So, today after an hour and a half or so, I told Brody he was done for awhile. He needed to do some other stuff and stay off the devices and t.v. for the rest of the morning. Then, I left to go running. When I returned awhile later, I was pleasantly surprised to find both of my children happily baking away in the kitchen.

Yes, that’s right. Both of them, as in together , and happily. It did surprise me too! And, not only were they baking but they were baking a cake they found in Southern Living from scratch!! That’s something I might do every 5 years, at best! And although the kitchen was destroyed, they were so proud to see it actually rising in the oven while also filming their cooking show!20170226_134009.jpg

In fact, while they waited, they decided to get their stuffed animals to show them how to ice the cake. They continued chatting and cooperating (yes, I just said that too!) while proudly icing their cake. They served Bo and I up a piece of fresh, warm, and edible chocolate cake. Yum!

But, had I not made Brody get off the Ipad, he’d still be sitting there brain-dead, isolated from the rest of the family. If I hadn’t just told him no more, he wouldn’t have been able to call himself “responsible” for doing his poop-duty chore before lunch! If I hadn’t been the parent, I wouldn’t have been able to just enjoy a piece of fresh cake.

When we stop using technology to fill our time, we can actually have time to be creative. And, I know not all kids will choose that on their own. That’s why it’s better to have them feel unhappy about having to stop because in the long-run they’ll feel happier,prouder, and have a chance to build other skills (including interacting with others) instead. Yes, we all have those days we just need the break but it’s too easy to make it a habit. I want more for my kids. Don’t you?

Why we don’t need happy kids

The old cliché is that we just want our kids to be happy. Ideally, they find their passion and live happily ever after. Go to school, easily make good grades, go to college, get a secure job, buy a house, get married, and have some children. The timeline was predictable and easily attainable for most.

But, long gone are the days of silver spoons and white picket fences. No more do we have the ‘typical’ family. The days of staying with the same company or career for a lifetime are over. And, the probability that a student can automatically get good grades by paying attention in class are low.

Times have changed, folks. Life is stressful in the land of the free. Changing social, political, and economic norms makes the idea of success more important now than ever. The pressures are high, and dysfunctional. So, do we just want our kids to be happy anymore or do we want more?

We need our kids to get a job and pay their own bills one day! But, there’s more. I want my children to be good citizens, give back, live fully, be confident in who they are, make their own path towards finding peace, AND be happy. I want them to be successful. And, to become successful, you might have to hurdle upsets, disappointments, setbacks, and heartbreak. To become successful, you may be unhappy at times. So, I want to rewrite the script and expect that to become happy, one must experience unhappiness.

In this society, we are taught that we should feel and look happy. And, if you don’t, you have to fix it and fix it fast. Take a pill. Don’t cry. Go on a diet. Go shopping.  But, please stay happy. This idea is permeating our society yet leaving us less happy and satisfied.

Now, approaching the ripe age of 4o, I realize and am accepting that it’s not realistic to be happy all the time and that’s ok. Being happy doesn’t define me because, like in the movie Inside Out, it takes a whole team of emotions to experience joy. Joy and happiness are not always front and center. It is normal to feel angry, disappointed, scared, hurt, or even sad sometimes. It’s time we teach our kids this too.

Instead of providing hours of entertainment with outings and time at home filled with business and stuff, we’d be better off as parents if we let them create their own fun. Or, better yet, let them get a little bored so they accept this feeling is normal. Research is starting to crop up with the benefits of boredom. (click here for list of benefits). Being more imaginative and creative, letting the mind wander, and leaving space for self-reflection are just a few reasons for all of us to be bored.

And, on top of feeling bored, allow them to have those hard feelings too. When we shield our children from feeling down, we are actually setting them up to be unsuccessful! It seems counterintuitive but it’s true. If we want our children to develop an internal locus of control and grit, we let them feel uncomfortable sometimes. We stop rushing into fix things for them and let them squander sometimes. We allow for natural consequences and disappointment. We let them get mad at us!

We need to teach our children to deal with disappointment, and then show them what it takes to push on. And, sometimes they just have to figure that out on their own which is so hard for parents. We hate to see our children struggle and hurt. But, when we don’t teach them that this is normal, they will end up a lot more unhappy in the long run!

Making things too easy and fun may actually create more demanding, less empathetic, and more depressed children and adults. Just look at the rising rates of depression, suicide, and medication in this country. Something is going wrong. Adults don’t know how to cope in a healthy, healing way.

We must teach our children how to get through periods of unhappiness. If we can work through some unpleasant times and feelings, then the reward is feeling satisfied. Instead of shooting for happiness, we will all end up more happy if we feel gratification for dealing with something hard and getting to the other side, even if we weren’t always happy along the way.

So, the next time your child is bored, or upset, or sad, let them be. Allow some space. Let them work through it. Tell them it’s ok to feel this way. Stop fixing and trying to make them happy because sometimes the most successful kids weren’t always happy.





My children love baking. It’s become a hobby of Anna’s. Inspired by shows like Worst Cooks in America and Cupcake Wars, to name a few, she loves whipping things together with no recipe. Typically, her homemade baked goods are inedible but she’s not doing it to eat, really. She just likes doing the live commentary as if she’s the host of her own cooking show.

I’m almost convinced that they actually just are doing it to drive me nuts. It’s an excuse to make an absolute mess, which is why I often times say no. However, it’s also an opportunity to measure, follow directions, and use the mixer. Their fun is annoying to me most days as I envision the flour I’ll mop off the floor and dishes that will pile up in the sink. Wasted ingredients and a messy kitchen just seems like it’s not worth the trouble most days.

But, lucky for them, yesterday was not most days. I gave it to not one but two baking projects. Anna wanted to make cake pops with her  cake pop maker that she’s had for months. Brody didn’t want to be left out so he chose banana bread since we had a couple mushy bananas just begging to be used.

The cake pop recipe Anna chose was red velvet (another excuse to use the loathed food coloring). She read the list of ingredients and followed the directions pretty well on her own, talking through her mixing and measuring. We ended up with cute little pink (not red) pops that tasted like vanilla. Her homemade glaze didn’t work out but Brody liked them and ate two, which made her very pleased.

Then, bowls and teaspoons piling up, Brody began his baking challenge with a tried and true recipe. Again, I supervised as he struggled to pour the flour from the bag to the measuring cup. We got to the last step and were just about to pour the batter into the pan when Brody says, “Mom, what about the bananas?”. Well, good thing someone knows what they’re doing because we were about to end up with a bland, sweet loaf of bread.

My point is that they are more capable than I want to give them credit for. The deal was they had to completely clean the kitchen afterwards. That’s usually the deal, but  I usually have to follow-up behind them. However, they actually worked as a team mopping, unloading, AND loading the dishwasher. When I came back from yoga, the kitchen was back to where it started.

So, why is it that we sometimes stifle their creativity and fun just because we don’t want what we think will be more work? I know sometimes it’s because I’m tired and lazy. I’d rather just not deal with one extra chore. Many times, we just think it’s just easier to clean the kitchen, make their bed , or clean their room. When we do it (whatever it is), we do it the way we think it needs to be done.

So, I’m learning to let go. I’m learning to loosen up. I’m learning that it’s ok to get a little messy in life. I’m learning that experimenting and exploring is just as important as the finished project. I’m learning to appreciate the process and not just the end result. I’m learning that living with dirty floors doesn’t kill you.


I bought this towel awhile ago to help me feel better when I am reminded I have 3 dogs, 2 kids, and no housekeeper. It’s a good reminder. Now, I’m about to go eat a piece of that yummy, homemade banana bread for breakfast! Thank you, Brody!


Caramel onions and Valentine’s day surprises!

This is too hilarious not the share! It’s nothing about love, and everything to do with love on this Valentine’s Day. It was a memorable surprise, indeed.

So, every year I am happy to get my Valentine’s flowers. It’s sweet and thoughtful when your spouse gives you flowers, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what the bouquet looks like the next year. In fact, I cannot tell you anything Bo has given me for Valentine’s Day because I just don’t remember. This year, however, I guarantee I will not forget the Valentine’s surprise from my boys!

Every year, it’s a tradition that Bo and the kids make me yummy chocolate covered strawberries. But, the boys also wanted to make me another sweet treat this year too. Bo had been prepping me that Brody really wanted to also make caramel apples for me this year. While I thought this was a little random and I don’t really care for them, I know Brody loves them so I figured this was really a treat for him. I saw the ingredients on the kitchen counter earlier so after dinner this evening, I wasn’t the least bit suspicious.  Bo and Brody were excited to share their homemade caramel apples that they’d made for the first time ever.

I wasn’t going to hurt his feelings, of course, so Bo reiterated that I had to at least try one. So, they gathered around as Bo held the messy caramel blob that did look just like an apple. I took one huge chomp into the giant , raw caramel covered onion! Talk about wanting to vomit! I have never been so shocked and disgusted as gagged the large chuck into the sink! Let me tell you, the unexpected taste of a raw onion doesn’t just go away and brought tears to my eyes. Bo was crying he was laughing so hard, and Anna was furious that they would prank her mother that she was crying tears of rage. She stormed off only to return to seriously pinch Bo to defend me……(don’t mess with her mama!).

What was most surprising is that this was all Brody’s idea. (Bo said he suggested it after seeing it all American’s Funniest Videos and had been planning it). This is truly one thoughtful Valentine’s gift that I’ll never forget. The gift of laughter is priceless! Way to go, boys. This is love!

Photo 1It got a little messed up after throwing it back on the wax paper but originally you never would have noticed the difference between the onion and the other 2 real apples.

#bestprankever         #lovetheoneyourewith             #crazyboys

Big Magic

I cannot even begin to write a book critique, but I would like to share a little insight into a quick and motivating read, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I just love her. Her honesty, wittiness, humbleness, wisdom, and positivity is something I was drawn to in her book Eat, Love, Pray. Now, in her most recent book, she speaks about her creativity and the creativity we all have inside of us- our “magic”.

In this personal book, she really encourages and believes all of us are capable of sharing our creative self. Not just in writing, but also by cooking, sculpting, dancing, sports, exercise, crafting, music, or whatever your outlet may be, we can all express our creativity if we aren’t critical of ourselves and take the time to be creative even if we don’t make a living doing it. We all have a spark; it just needs to be lit and we don’t need to wait or ask permission to do it. It doesn’t have to perfect, or even please anyone but ourselves.

It’s so relatable when she talks about never writing for other people. In fact, she explains that writers  shouldn’t write to make a hit. Writers shouldn’t write for others. When she wrote her big hit Eat, Love, Pray, she wrote it for herself as part of her process. And, by writing from the heart, you’ll touch some people but not all. You’ll offend some. You’ll encourage some too. When your art is real and from the heart, some will find it beautiful, or maybe fun, or just cool enough to read, eat, or look at!

When I started this blog, it was for me. It is for me. I have journaled on and off since I was a kid, and always loved reflecting and learning about how others grow. And in my blog posts now, I share some sort of lesson I learned. It’s part part of my growing up process! It may or (maybe more often) may not be relatable to you. I love when it is and I get some feedback from someone else I respect. But, even if I don’t, it’s good enough for me.

In her reflective book, I am inspired knowing this successful author doesn’t have a degree in writing. It’s so cool that she never expected Eat, Love, Pray to be some big hit. And, I loved reading about all her submission rejection letters as I also have a dream of publishing a book (and have only received rejection emails, letters, or usually nothing at all!). Timing is everything and maybe the world hasn’t been ready for my stories yet!

But, even if I never get published and just have this little blog that I think about every so often, I have shared my stories with my kids and their approval is the most important to me. I have showed my kids that it’s great to have dreams. Every couple months, I have (what I think) is a great idea or invention that I enthusiastically tell my kids about. They are always on board and as excited as I. Can’t share my latest idea but Brody is excited because I will need to build a factory! It’s always good to dream….

So, what I have done and will continue to do is dream. My mom gave my a fridge magnet that says:

Don’t quit YOUR daydream.

Maybe my dream will be realized one day. Maybe not. Maybe it already is! But, either way, I know I’m showing my children that it’s fun to dream. Even if no one else believes it’s as cool as I do, I have fun in that space or that period of time when I believe I’ve come up with something great.

We all have that in us, some sort of creative energy or even talent if we are lucky enough. But reading from Gilbert, it doesn’t matter. Even a successful author like her has doubts, experiences failures, and continues to dedicate herself to her ‘magic’ despite.

So, I am going to take the advice I would give my own children. Don’t quit just because you’re not good at something at first. If you enjoy doing it (and it doesn’t hurt others or yourself), keep doing it. And, if you think it’s good or even just like it, be proud. Like the little sign I have hanging on my room’s door at school states:

Affirmations for Women68

Whatever your magic is, just do it!

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